The vaguely familiar face in the mirror gazed at me suspiciously as I prepared the brutal ritual about to be inflicted upon it. I knew I couldn’t go on this way any longer. After three agonizing days, it had grown to be too much. Slowly, I raised the shimmering steel shard toward my neck, took a final deep breath, and steadied myself to commit shaving. I hated it. In fact, I hated it so much that I actually cultivated selected facial acreage, in order to cut down the area I needed to lather and scrape. Besides, my beard looked cool, too … until it turned from pepper to salt-and-pepper, and then to salt.
Suddenly I stopped. Standing proudly erect, almost defiantly at attention, on the very tip of my left ear was a silvery, shining, nearly-neon 2-1/2 inch hair! What was he doing there? How long had he been there? He couldn’t have gotten lost and wandered down from the top because nothing with his majesty or bearing has grown up there in years! There was a time I spent hours in front of the mirror and scooped pounds of ’pomade’ onto my pompadour, making sure every hair was precisely in place … but now my crown has been re-designated as a landing strip for flies, mosquitoes and other small insects. In those days, the smiling kid in the mirror used to break the teeth off of combs … now I can comb my hair with a towel! Why is it that the older you get, the tougher it is to grow hair where you want it, and the more abundant it becomes where you don’t?
This dilemma has often led me to wonder why guys today, who can grow yards of hair on their heads, either shave it off or get such a bad haircut that, as long as I was still living “under his roof,” Dad would have marched me back to the barber to retrieve my seventy-five cents! Even more puzzling is their inability to grow proper beards, sideburns or hair on their torsos. At best, it’s either sparse or grows in little tufts. Many of those exceptions who do seem to have a suitable supply of testosterone, have ‘fashionably’ turned to exfoliating products to render their legs and chests as smooth as baby’s bottoms! One thing I clearly remember in my crowd was the ego crushing chant of “Baby legs, baby legs!” hurled like a sinking fastball at any guy who showed up without hairy wheels in gym shorts or a bathing suit. And the guys who showed up with actual hair on their chests? Heroes!
Did I hear myself blame testosterone? It all got me thinking that, just maybe, ‘The Governator’ in ‘Caulifornia’ with his “Girly-Men” remarks and Rush Limbaugh with his ‘New Castrati’ comments might be onto something. After all, even back when my daughters were still growing up, I can remember questioning why so many young guys would rather hang with each other than go out on a date. When I was footloose and prowling, it was automatically understood that a date with a girl of the female persuasion trumped anything the boys might have planned … especially on a Saturday night!
Anyway, I did a little research and may have found an answer. First of all, there really is a condition called male menopause … but since women have a lock on the name MENopause, the correct term for the symptoms men experience is ‘VIROPAUSE.’ I guess ‘WOMENopause’ simply refers to women who hesitate too much and is not applicable here. Anyway, it seems that testosterone levels in males are dropping faster these days than the decreases normally associated with aging in the past. It is suspected that pesticides, preservatives in foods and the hormone pellets used to fatten up cattle, pork and chicken may actually be thinning more than just the hair of our younger male generations.
Everything else being equal, I was willing to chalk up most of the new ‘feminine-side’ demeanor to fashion and, “You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.” But I guess that’s nothing new. Mom used to see me plastering down my naturally wavy hair in the morning and she’d say, “Someday it’s all going to fall out and then you’ll be sorry.” She was right. Of course, that was usually followed by the obligatory, “God’s going to punish you, you’ll see!” I don’t know if God actually intervened directly because of my early grooming habits … but I do wear a variety of hats to keep my head warm in winter.
As the face in the mirror began to regard me with less suspicion, I remembered reading about a certain ancient Amazon tribe that removed facial hair by applying a rubbery tree sap to their faces, letting it dry, and then ripping it off, whiskers and all. Suddenly my own little ritual didn’t seem so brutal. With a single stroke, I unceremoniously hacked off the silvery little soldier perched atop my left ear and smiled to think how lucky I was to have a fresh blade in my razor.
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